About bendtnersbettercousin

Gooner born in 1982 from Harlow, Essex, with a love for Arsenal that knows. I'm not an AKb, nor am I an 'In Arsene we Rust', but I like to think that I can tip-toe between the two, occasionally veering into both camps.

Ollie’s recapturing of form good for us

Much like Chelski and Tiny Totts are to us all metaphor ally speaking, I have a real pain in my neck this morning, which caused me no amount of irritation when trying to get to sleep last night. Honestly, it’s like Jose Mourinho himself had pulled up a chair and started jabbing me in the back whilst complaining about everything he could possibly complain about. And we all know just how much he can complain.

We’ve still got just over 24 hours before we’ll know who’s starting against QPR in West London tomorrow night, but I expect Le Boss will be on hand to make his usual pre-match assessments on the proceedings at Loftud Road, in today’s press conference. Hopefully he’ll be in more jovial mood than he will have undoubtedly been in before Friday’s presser, but unlike the pundits, I’m pretty sure he will be more than acutely aware of the potential threat that QPR pose. 

After all, they’ll be fresher than a spring daisy after their eleven or so days off, so I expect them to be a feisty opponent for us to take on. But more on that tomorrow. For now, we just have to be happy that the bad taste in our mouths – like when you have particularly horrible mouthwash that leaves a metallic flavour lingering on your tongue – from the Monaco defeat has been partially rinsed by three points at home to Everton. 

One man who will be particularly happy will be Giroud. His goal against the Toffees has enabled the Monaco performance to not become a ‘thing’. We’ve seen how badly Arsenal players have been affected in the past by ‘things’. Just look at Eduardo and his injury form after leaving us. He was never the same again. So I’m pleased that Giroud got his goal because that will ensure that he is given the self belief to give the first leg of the Monaco game the old Gallic shrug and move on. He’s credited the manager and I think rightly so. It could have been all to easy for Arsène to ‘rest’ Giroud and against a decent opponent like Everton you’re hardly guaranteed a hatful of chances to make amends. But he did and we’ll be in better shape with him feeling better as a result.

The other questions I expect Arsène to be asked tonight is who will be rotated after the game on Sunday? I am quite anxious to see whether Coquelin has found his nose underneath all of the blood that appeared on Sunday, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see that he’s given some recuperation time so he can be ready for the battle against United Monday week. As I’ve said before, rotation is an important part of modern day football, but Arsène will be wary of rotating too much and if his hand is forced into changes through injury to players, I’d expect other players to miss out who might normally have been rotated for this game. 

Still, at least we won’t have to face Joey Barton trying to cheat his way through games trying to get players sent off, so hopefully that doesn’t mean we lose more players to suspension or injury in the immediate future. In fact, we’re due to receive a boost of Ramsey and Flamini today from Arsène, if the rumours are true. That’s probably just as well, because with Arteta, Wilshere and perma-crock Diaby all still out, missing Rambo and the Flamster with Le Coq possibly out too, would probably leave Arsène scratching around searching for Chambersesque square pegs for round holes. 

More on the game tomorrow. For now, I’m going to look like the weirdest man on the Metropolitan Line by shaking my head side-to-side slowly like I’m dramatically disagreeing with somebody in a Hollywood courtroom drama scene from a movie.

Cheerio.

Tasty three points and chances taken. This time

With The Management in situ, blue skies overhead, as well as the ability to share some of the amber nectar before the game after a month off it, Arsenal duly delivered exactly what was needed on Sunday lunchtime with a serving of delicious three-pointage.

It doesn’t really matter that it was closer than we would have liked. You don’t complain about a delicious meal being late when it arrives late (well maybe you do, but that’s more than likely to get any money off your meal rather than anything else) and tell them to take it back. You feast on it. Our footballing meal yesterday wasn’t the tastiest, but it certainly hit the spot and as I sit here this morning typing, all I can feel is the satisfaction that a 2-0 win against a good Everton side brings.

The Toffees set themselves up well. They’re poor league position belies their actual quality and in the first half I suspect they even had more possession and more of the ball in our half than we did in theirs. I have to be honest and say I expected Everton to look leggy and sluggish after their Europa League triumph, but they popped the ball around well throughout the game. 

Martinez’s game plan appeared to be to use the strength of his full backs going forward, to which we had to find an answer and you have to say that by not conceding, we had that answer. The defensive reshuffle of Gibbs keeping his slot and Gabriel stepping in for Per looked decent enough, although I do wonder if Gibbs was acutely aware of a break being on, because it didn’t feel like he got forward as much as he has done in recent games. That was more obvious to me in the second half, as Gibbs plays on my side when we’re attacking the North Bank, but he seemed a little reserved. That’s not so much a bad thing I suppose, because we’ve lambasted our defenders for their poor positional play and ability to be too easily caught on the break in the past. 

Gabriel had one sticky moment in the first half where he allowed for the ball to bounce rather than Row-Z it, but perhaps that was his La Liga self forgetting where he was and the amount of time you get in the Premier League, so we can forgive him that particular transgression. Anyway, he steadied himself well thereafter, making a good last-ditch tackle when it looked like Koscienly was beaten by Lukaku and through on goal. He’s a ‘no nonsense’ defender that will only get better and he’s certainly got more pace than Per, which I’m sure will give peace of mind to Kos that he has somebody else who can challenge attackers in a foot race.

I was also surprised to see Ospina start in goal, as I thought after Wednesday’s indifferent performance he would be losing his place to Wojciech, but I think Szczesny has a bit of a problem now. If Ospina can’t be deposed after a slightly poor game in between the sticks, can he be deposed at all? Unless he picks up an injury, I think Wojciech will see out this season on the bench. Ospina did a good cover job as a sweeper and made a couple of really good saves yesterday too, one in particular which was a fingertipper which would have bought the game level. I still remain to be entirely convinced by him as a long-term option, but he’s doing ok at the moment.

We struggled for fluency at times and half of me wonders how much that was down to Evertone playing well and the other half being down to us looking nervous after the Monaco game. The Ox was both hero and villain on Wednesday with the late show and, whilst he worked a couple of good positions in the first half, he like a few of the players was a little off I felt. His replacement was Rosicky and if the guy doesn’t get a starting spot on Wednesday night I’ll be shocked. He was full of energy, ran his socks off for 15 or so minutes – admittedly everyone else would have been tiring from that time – but got the second goal in injury time, which secured the points and gave us a good seven minutes of injury time which was less stressful than it could have been. Thankfully.

Let’s also be thankful that Ollie G was on the scoresheet too, eh? I did have fears that he’s the sort of player that will let a performance like last Wednesday’s get to him, so he more than anyone else needed to respond with a performance and ideally a goal, which is what he got and we can all be thankful. He’ll take confidence from that and hopefully bag plenty more between now and the end of the season.

Francis Coquelin had a good game too. He was feisty in the tackle and got the reward his game deserved; our adulation and no, not the broken nose! I hope he’s ok for Wednesday because he’s now an important defensive cog in our team.

The only concern Arsène might have is whether he should give Alexis some time on the bench. He was carrying us at the beginning of the season but has gone off the rails slightly of late. He must be knackered because he’s run himself ragged all season and whilst you can’t tell he’s tired through his effort levels, it’s other things like misplaced passes, or running in to blind alleys, that suggest to me that he needs to be given some time to recharge and refresh. Perhaps the QPR game this week offers that opportunity for the manager to rotate.

That’s all I’ve got for today. It was a tough encounter against a good Everton team who created a couple of chances, but unlike us, didn’t take them. Which is the perfect way to respond to the Monaco debacle.

One European hangover cure please, barkeep

Today needs to be some kind of amazing hangover cure for us after Wednesday night’s debacle. Today wants to be the hearty breakfast after a night of boozing that turns you from bear with a saw head, to soft fluffy animal that just wants to be loved, in the form of a satisfied can knowing our team has retaken third spot in the Premier League and have vanquished Everton.

Despite what some of the pundits are saying about Everton this season, I don’t see the game as a foregone conclusion, so have bought in my secret weapon: The Management.

You might remember her from such victories as Hull at home, both 5-2 Spud victories and a Watford three-niller a few seasons ago. Yep, she tends to preside – at home at least – on victories and only the occasional hiccup has occured over the last five or so years.

So I’m taking this game seriously and I suspect the team will today. Arsène will want a reaction from his wounded soldiers and the fact that the league offers a different competition and one that could allow us to stretch our good form, certainly works for me, so I’m expecting the players to be up for it.

But that’s only one element of the story, because we need to beat an Everton team who will be buoyed by their midweek success against a group of Young Boys. But scoffing we shall not be doing on their midweek opponents, because the gods of footballing karma look not kindly on such things.

Our head-to-head against them on both home soil and away is not great either. In the last five league games there have been four draws and one defeat, coming last season as we were blitzed by an Everton team chasing down fourth alongside us. Whilst this season the same cannot be said of Everton in terms of their own personal goals, they will still offer a sizeable obstacle for us to overcome if we want to leapfrog United back into third by the end of the day.

Team wise I’ve already sort of deliberated over what Arsène might do with some of his players. He’s already intimated that there will be some rotation, which I have a feeling will come in the form of Szczesny, Rosicky, the Ox and Theo. Ospina wasn’t great in the Champions League and this could be the opportunity for Arsène to show Wojciech that this is his chance. Rosicky has played well every time he’s come on so I do think Arsène will give him a shot. The Ox looked distraught after he was at fault for the third goal, but he looks like the kind of player that will spend the rest of the season trying to make amends, so I’d be tempted to throw him in. Finally to Theo, who likes the odd goal against Everton and Martinez being the kind of manager he is, I think he’ll not be sitting too deep with his team and trying to play for a 0-0. It’s just not his style and these types of games, where the defence could be playing a higher line, are the types that Theo thrives on. 

Quite who is replaced I’m not sure. There are a number of candidates in the non-obvious positions like the front three or the midfield. But players I don’t think will lose their place would be Coquelin or Giroud. Le Coq offers more than Flamini who, incidentally, isn’t quite fully fit yet. Olivier Giroud won’t be dropped because I think Arsène will play the “I have total confidence in you, Olivier” card and look to be rewarded in his trust of the Frenchman by a fantastic performance. One just hopes he doesn’t go two for two in terms of shocking misses. He doesn’t have to score today, but a performance in which he’s interval to the build up play, offers something positive to other players and looks strong, will do him the world of good. I don’t even want to imagine what will happen to him mentally if he has another stinker this afternoon.

Alexis will run and run forever but perhaps the manager might choose to take him out of the first eleven for now.

As for Everton, they’ll have Stones and Lennon back, creating a bit more solidity at the back and more natural width from an ex-Spud sure to get a tasty reception. Lukaku is their obvious danger man, but providing we stifle the play behind him in the form of Barkely and Naismith, he can be negated if he’s isolated. I’m not saying we will, that is, just that it is what we have to do. 

Come on Arsenal. We’ve been knocked off the horse, but we need to get straight back on it, like now.

An arm around the shoulder or slap around the chops?

Arsene faced the media yesterday and, probably as you’d expect, he was reasonably defiant after an appalling game in midweek. He didn’t rule us out of a ‘miracle’ as Big Per has put it, but equally he didn’t retract some of the criticism for the team from Wednesday. It’s the right thing to do, because they all need to know and be reminded of how poor we were, if nothing else than to fuel the fire in their bellies to pick up more wins over the coming weeks and months.

I really hope we do get a response. I hope we get a response of anger, rage and destruction over an inconsistent Everton team, but one that will be riding high after going through in the Europa League. Is it still called that? Or have they reverted back to calling it what it should always have been called, the UEFA Cup? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I just want Arsenal to pick up three points tomorrow.

Hopefully we can do that and with the news that we have no fresh injury concerns to speak of, it seems as though Arsene has a choice of players that he can pick for his starting eleven. In his presser yesterday he did say that we will have to rotate, certainly with a game against QPR to come in midweek, so I think there might be one or two players given some bench time. You’d like to think it was because of their poor performance, but he can’t drop the whole team, so who should he opt for?

This is a mini debate I had on Twitter and a couple of people made some really good points. You could take the hard line against the players and completely rotate. Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud all had particularly poor games and could in theory be replaced by Szczesny, Chambers, Gabriel, Rosicky, Walcott and Akpom, but I doubt we’ll see that many changes. For one thing large-scale changes usually lead to a disjointed approach to a game. Players may train with each other a lot, but they haven’t all got the actual live game experience of playing together under their belts, so it’s usually too much to ask. This is especially the case against a decent Premier League Team like Everton. If we’re lining up in the cup against a team like Brighton, or Walsall for example, you can afford to rotate on a larger basis and expect the quality of the squad to shine through. But Everton are too good to take that chance.

So who gets dropped? This is where you have to put your trust in the manager, because I think it becomes about assessing who needs the motivation, and who needs the arm around the shoulder. For example, I would think a player like Alexis would just be more pumped to prove a manager wrong if he was dropped. But I suspect dropping Giroud could see a fragile confidence fall even lower if he isn’t asked to play himself in to form. So I think he’ll be given another chance for a reprieve. I know that sounds a little bit like we’d be mollycoddling a professional athlete who should be able to motivate himself rather than need a kiss and a cuddle every time he has a bad game, but football is as much about winning psychological battles as much as anything else sometimes, so the best managers in the world are the ones that know when an arm round the shoulder is better than a slap around the chops.

Incidentally, I’d be surprised if Alexis was dropped, because he’s been one of the stand-out performers this season. But I do wonder if Big Per could be given a temporary Spanish Archer from the starting eleven. Perhaps Ozil too will be given time on the naughty step to think about what he’s done, with the Ox in prime position to take up his spot in the middle of the park.

It’s tough making the right decisions in professional football, but that’s why you’re paid more than I will earn in my lifetime in just a year, so hopefully Le Boss makes the right ones and we win tomorrow. Motivation is  massive part of professional football and knowing when to ‘hairdryer’ it, or when to talk up your team, is what makes the best managers the most successful. It’s not just about picking the team and dropping or playing players, Arsene needs to get them fired up in the right way with his pre-match talk too. Does he leave them to say it and trust they are hurting enough, or does he give them a Churchillian war-cry and send them out to battle? We’ll never know. We’ll only know if what his choice was, actually worked, by the way they perform tomorrow.

The injury news seems quite good too, actually, as Rambo and Flamini start training again and I’d expect with a week under their belts they should be back again for the United game. The Wilshere ‘setback’ is only temporary – so says Arsene – so if it’s just a case of removing some pins from his ankle you’d expect him to be out for a week as the cut they use to get to the pins re-heels. Don’t hold me to that though, as my medical knowledge goes as far as watching Doogie Howser in the earlier nineties with my mum and dad. So probably as much as our medical team then! I kid, I kid…

That’s pretty much all there is for today. I don’t really want to go into an exact line up for tomorrow, as I’ll have nothing to talk about then, so I’ll take my leave and see thee in the ‘morrow.

Big Per’s belief, big ten days

i’m glad big Per hasnt given up the possibility of exit from the Champions League in the same way he gave up his composure on a lacklustre Wednesday evening against an extremely beatable Monaco side. 

The tall German was the voice of the team yesterday in the aftermath of the debacle less than 24 hours earlier and said that we have to believe we can re-address the balance when we visit the principality in a few weeks time. I’m glad he still has belief, because I’ve been knocked back too many times this season to think that the impossible can happen. Still, let’s cast the Champions League to the deepest, darkest, recesses of our minds, shall we? 

After all, we’ve got two league games and an FA Cup quarter final to concern ourselves with before we need to start any rain dances or stroking any four leaf clover covered rabbits feet.

Arsène will meet the press today and after a gritty win at Palace I bet he wasn’t expecting to face the media with the mood suddenly plummeting. None of us were if we’re all honest. I thought this was the beginning of a run to the end of the season that could see dreams escalating to possible glories, yet when Le Boss faces the hacks today, it will be as if our good run of form never existed. The tired clichè that “you’re only as good as your last game” will never have felt more damaging to morale.

Yet Arsène needs to put on a brave face. This next week and a bit is where he earns his quite sizeable crust. Three wins in the next tens days and the garden is full of bloom again. Victory against Everton, QPR and United away (or at least a draw in that last one so we’re still in the FA Cup) and we repair the already fragile confidence, going in to the return leg with a least a smidge of form.

I do wonder if Arsène will play the ‘little bit injury’ card on some players today. He’s said himself in the past that he has spared players’ blushes by saying they’re injured when they’ve actually been dropped, so I do wonder after the midweek performance, if there will be cause for rotation against the Toffees. All will be revealed in the next few hours I suspect. Personally I’d like to see Ospina, Mertesacker, Özil and Giroud all being given time on the sides to prove their place isn’t secure, but with the latter you do wonder if that would just smash his almost certain drop in confidence further. Perhaps the manager will decide that these players will need to play themselves out of their midweek dip?

Do you know what’s equally as annoying as the defeat? We can’t even really laugh at Liverpool or the Spuds getting knocked out, because our result will just leave us open to counter-ribbing. Annoying, that.

I’m just coming in to Wembley Park tube station. It’s a bright sunny morning, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the national stadium is glistening. What a way to make it up to us fans it would be if Arsène could steer us to that place in May for the FA Cup final. 

Let’s leave today’s blog on that positive note, shall we? 

Catch Ya later.

abject defensively, profligate offensively, inept tactically. Arsenal.

I’d like to tell you that nothing could have prepared us for yesterday’s abomination of a performance from Arsenal at home to Monaco yesterday evening, but sadly we have a history littered with similar mistakes that have been perpetually repeated by Arsène Wenger’s team at this stage of the competition, for now the fourth year running.

The story is so similar it’s boring, but at least we’re all so not shocked that we’re stunned into silent disbelief, because we’ve been down this road before: first leg disaster, usually followed by glorious defeat in the second leg. 

We are halfway through our round of 16 competition and, much like Bayern for the previous two years and AC Milan for the year before that, we have conspired to shoot ourselves in the foot and effectively give up our chances of going through to the next round. Am I being defeatist? You’re damn right I am, because when you get to the knockout stages of the competition you play teams that just don’t tend to concede three goals at home. Well, all except Arsenal, that is.

I can’t think of one player who came out of yesterday’s game with the merest of smidgens-worth of credit if I’m honest. Well, not one Arsenal player that is, because Monaco had some like Kondogbia who were brilliant. We were atrocious. But it wasn’t just the players who failed miserably to perform to any kind of standard that is warranted given their hefty wages and clear abilities, because the manager must also take a serious slice of the blame in the cold light of this Thursday morning post-mortem.

Arsène rarely sets his team’s up to negate the opposition and yesterday evening it showed. Monaco knew what Arsenal would do and set themselves up accordingly; they sat two midfielders deeper and mopped up the loose second ball (almost every time I can remember) every time Ospina kicked long, they played in a tight and compact unit when they didn’t have the ball, showing no intention to press our back four which resulted in an evening of sideways passing amongst defenders and whoever dropped deep to collect. Alexis was receiving the ball in his own half for most of that first half. That says it all really. 

So tactically Monaco got it right, but the three goals they enjoyed were all with a little help from The Arsenal, as once again we proved that we are to defending what Madonna is to vertical balancing. Per Mertesacker – his worst game of the season so far I think – may have turned away from Kondogbia’s shot from 25 yards, but the fact that the Monaco player was given time to control, take a touch, set himself and strike is criminal at this level of the competition. The deflection meant that Ospina was wrong-footed and so perhaps he cannot be blamed, but the type of deflection it was looked to me like the kind of one that you see Cortouis or De Gea quickly shuffle their feet and save. That feels like why Ospina is not in that top bracket. It’s still early in his Arsenal career but I’m not sure he’s capable of making the type of save that makes you say “wow, how did he save that?”. He saves what you expect him to save.

Except for the second goal he didn’t. But again, he cannot shoulder 100% of the blame, because Monaco caught us on the counter and picked us off brilliantly thanks to the suicidal defending of Mertesacker. Watch the moment where the ball is squared to Berbatov. He’s only just made it in to his own half!! Shameful, shambolic and if Gabriel was not so raw in the league, you’d have to say a droppable offence from Big Per.

But it wasn’t just defensively that we were not at the races, because going forward was a nightmare of a performance too. Alexis lost the ball time and time again, Welbeck was a willing but ineffective runner, but Olivier Giroud was positively painful to watch. He had an absolute shocker, missing chance after chance and through his own profligacy, he has conspired with his defensive colleagues to cost us a place in the next round of the competition. 

But even then, at 0-2 down and into injury time, we Arsenaled it up like only we can when the Ox’s fine strike gave us a glimmer of hope. See out the game at 1-2 and see what you can do in Monaco. That should have been the mantra. But mentally this team is like a side of under-11s sometimes and we were caught out trying to push too many people forward.

I haven’t mentioned the midfield yet, largely because it was non-existent. Özil was poor, Santi fared only slightly better and positional Coquelin was not great at times. Given the supposed strength of our squad I am hoping for some punishments to be dished out in the form of dropping some of the players for the game against Everton on Sunday. Some of those players who have won their place in the team need to be shown that it can be easily taken away from them. That is what started us on such a good run in all competitions since just before Christmas and now there needs to be some rotation to show the players out of the team that they have just as much chance to play. Rosicky, Walcott, The Ox, Gabriel, Szczesny, all need to be given a chance now. 

The manager needs to have a look at himself this morning too. He needs to realise that he needs to prepare his players better and he needs to pay attention to the oppositions strengths and nullify them. But he won’t. We’ll repeat the same mistakes and we’ll find ourselves out of all competitions and pushing for a fourth place finish like we do every season. And who will be happy with that? The finance team, Stan and Arsène. 

Then we go again next season with the same objectives. Qualify for the Champions League, get out of the group stages and then anything else is a bonus.

That’s not what the fans want Arsenal. We want those memories. We want you to make memories for us. That’s not going to happen with more displays like yesterday.

Monaco game feels similar to Middlesbrough

Yesterday evening I watched Le Boss’ press conference and I couldn’t help but think:

Why is Danny Welbeck there? 

It also got me asking myself the question on a more broader scale, because modern day footballers are so media trained to the ‘nth’ degree these days, that to avoid having their words twisted by the media, they regurgitate the same responses regardless of the question. Playing press conference bingo with footballers is easier than playing Arsène presser bingo! Just replace Arsènisms with phrases like “give 100%”, “looking forward to the game” and “yeah-no, I think it will be a tough game”. 

Anyway, enough minor digs at one of our heroes, who also happens to be many years younger than me and so makes me feel a little weird if I’m honest. It’s time to prepare thee and me for tonight’s game.

This won’t be easy. At the risk of extreme hypocrisy and trotting out the tired clichés I’ve just scoffed at, now that we’re into the knockout stages of the competition is when the teams and the results are more closely matched, so I don’t expect a simple hammering of Villa proportions if I’m honest. Arsène said as much himself, whilst also noting that whilst Monaco don’t score many goals, they haven’t been conceding many either. 

Their success was built on a foundation of clean sheets and their record in their domestic competition would suggest that they will also be arriving at The Emirates tonight with a good degree of confidence. I know they’ve got fitness concerns over a few players like Carvalho, for example, but they’ll still be able to field a strong team and I’d expect them to come for a clean sheet tonight. I don’t want to do Monaco a disservice, but I see them as very similar to the situation Middlesbrough were at when they visited us a few weeks ago. Towards the top of their respective league, success built on stability from the back and confidence high because of their form in their own division. Middlesbrough came to our gaff in the same mind set.

Of course we know that Ligue 1 is a technically better league than the Championship, as well as the fact that Monaco are technically a better team than Middlesbrough, so I expect them to adopt a similar game plan with probably better results than Middlesbrough did in the FA Cup.

That game relied on Middlesbrough frustrating us for at least the first half I suspect, so when we scored two goals in that first half, it effectively threw out any game plan Karanka had on the day, so I think a quick start determines how the game pans out tonight. If we score within the first 20 minutes it wil breed more confidence in the team. Hopefully it will foster a belief that we can score more. But the only thing we need to be mindful of is the fact that unlike Middlesbrough’s need to take chances because of the fact it was a single game knockout, Monaco don’t need to take as many chances, because of the return leg. So a 1-0 defeat is by no means insurmountable and as a result I don’t see Monaco looking to catch us out. 

We need to be smart. Good game management tonight is more important than anything else. If we get an early goal, then great, but the team need to be mature enough to know that this needs to be a probing type of game, not one in which caution is thrown to the wind.

The managers choices are tough. Defensively I’d expect him to stick with Ospina, Koscienly, Mertesacker, Monreal and Bellerin. In midfield you have to assume that Coquelin will sit at the base of the three, with Santi alongside him. With no Wilshere on the bench or in the squad tonight, picking the first seven players from the back going forward is easy. But the creative players will be hard. Özil is looking sharper with every game and is the sort of player you want if a team sits deeper and needs to be unpicked like a door by a cat burglar with his clever and close passing. You’d expect Giroud to start in the form that he’s currently in, along with one of the players of the season in Alexis, but who occupies the final position in the three? Walcott for end-product and pace? Welbeck for his engine and build up play (he hasn’t been in the goals but he always contributes)? Or maybe Arsène throws a curveball and gives Rosicky the nod for his quick transition from front to back that he gives the team?

I suspect it will be Welbeck that is preferred, as he’s got the best engine, but if Monaco are sitting deep and not giving space, I’d love to see what Rosicky can offer. To me, Walcott is the perfect player for the away leg, catching Monaco on the break with his pace, but I just don’t see there being that much space for him this evening. So I wouldn’t be starting him.

We’ll know soon enough. This is the type of match we want to be part of in the Champions  League, so we need to enjoy it, but right now I’d take 90 minutes of turgid football for a 2-0 victory.

Come on The Arsenal!